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Support for EU treaty slumps in Ireland: poll

03 September 2009, 21:28 CET
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(DUBLIN) - Support in recession-hit Ireland for the European Union's Lisbon treaty has slumped ahead of next month's referendum on the key reform document, a poll released Thursday showed.

The poll said support for the treaty dropped eight points to 46 percent, while those undecided about how they will vote in the referendum increased.

As major political parties gear up to campaign ahead of the October 2 referendum, the poll showed undecided voters jumped seven points to 25 percent.

Opposition to the treaty stood at 29 percent, increasing one point since the last poll in May.

The TNS mrbi poll was conducted for Friday's edition of the Irish Times.

"A striking feature of the latest poll is that most of those who have left the 'yes' camp have moved into the 'don't know' category rather than shifting into the 'no' camp," the newspaper's political editor Stephen Collins said.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen announced in July the date for the referendum, after opinion polls showed voters would back it this time.

Cowen said he had received assurances from his European colleagues on issues that concerned Irish voters, who threw the EU into disarray when they rejected the treaty in a referendum in June last year.

The last three polls this year showed solid support for the treaty.

But there are concerns among treaty supporters that voter dissatisfaction with Cowen's handling of the economic crisis could lead to an anti-government backlash vote in the referendum.

The latest poll showed 75 percent of voters would like to see a change of government, while support for Cowen's Fianna Fail party has dropped 3 points since May to a record low 17 percent.

Ireland has been severely battered by the financial crisis, and entered recession during the first half of 2008 -- the first eurozone nation to do so.

Cowen's ruling coalition backs the treaty along with the main opposition parties. Only the republican Sinn Fein, with four seats in the 166 seat parliament, opposes the treaty.

Of the 27 EU nations, only Ireland is constitutionally bound to hold a referendum on the treaty, which is designed to improve decision-making in a greatly expanded bloc. Almost all the EU members have endorsed the treaty through votes in their national parliaments.

The poll was conducted face-to-face with 1,000 voters on Monday and Tuesday.

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